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Here’s a brief report from subscriber, Gary Jurden about his experiences at two different lodges that offer anglers the opportunity to catch sailfish on both fly and conventional gear. His comparison will no doubt help anglers decide which property best fits their needs and goals when looking to prod the blue water for billfish in 2020
This report may a little different in that I will compare two lodges that I first read about in Angling Report. First, I went to Guatemala and fished with Casa Vieja in May 2017, and I just returned from fishing at Bahia la Tortuga in Mexico south of Ixtapa. Guatemala’s Pacific West Coast is touted as the number 1 billfishing destination in the world, while the waters off the coast of Puerto Vicente, Mexico have been awarded the number 2 seat for billfishing. I was able to catch sailfish on a fly at both places and also on conventional gear, but the experience was different at each location.
Starting with costs, Casa Vieja is typically $6,300 for a single angler during the regular season for 3 days fishing on a 35-foot Contender. The same package is $3,730 per angler for two anglers, and so on. I went single here but was still offered a discount to the $3,730 price because I booked in the off-season. Conversely, Bahia la Tortuga was only $1,595 for fishing 5 days in a 20-foot panga. For this trip I went with my brother-in-law.
When it comes to vessels and gear, The 35-foot Contender was an excellent boat to fly fish from, but the panga was less comfortable and not always easy to fight from with a fly rod. Casa Vieja also had up to date fly fishing equipment and conventional equipment, while Bahia la Tortuga had no fly-fishing equipment, but the owner John was helpful in his recommendations. The conventional gear was also not new, but was more than adequate.
At Casa Vieja I caught 3 sails on a fly and 4 on conventional gear in 3 days time. At Bahia la Tortuga my brother-in-law and I caught 11 sails, only 1 on a fly, mostly due to some equipment failure. We did however catch a number of the sails on a spinning rig we brought that only had 30-pound braid. Bahia la Tortuga offers inshore fishing, and other guests did well with 15 to 20-pound roosters. Casa Vieja also offers inshore fishing packages for roosters and other species from March through July.
Casa Vieja Lodge is a compound in the small town of Puerto San Jose and you are transported daily to your boat at the marina. The rooms were nice and comfortable; especially the beds and pillows. Morning wakeup was coffee delivered to your room, and breakfast was in a dining room where there was a menu to choose from. After breakfast you choose what you wanted for lunch. Dinner was outside in the covered dining area and the menu was set, but you could make some changes if desired. All the meals were excellent. At Casa Vieja there is also a large pool with a number of lounges around it. They also had WiFi.
The last day I was the only guest there except for a naval port mapping team. I did run into a couple of problems with staff that I reported to the management, and there was excellent follow up from the owner and the lodge. I would say this was the exception and not the rule.
Bahia la Tortuga Lodge has a nice view of the ocean over a lush garden. The rooms were minimal and offered no opening windows, low lighting, and only one handle for taking cool showers. There was also a small pool for cooling off. The dining area is outdoors and covered, but it could use a fan above for when the breeze is not going.
Breakfast was a plate of cut up fruit followed by eggs and different meats, which was good. Lunch on the boat was interesting, a white bread sandwich with one slice of processed meat, 1 slice of cheese and some butter; plus a salad and a piece of fruit. However, when you got back from fishing about 4:00 pm you were offered another meal that was always delicious, from tostadas to ceviche. Also they would often put out wonderful guacamole and chips. The dinners were very good as well, various chicken dishes and seafood. The staff always smiled and they were very helpful. They do not have WiFi but there is a spot for phone coverage through ATT (I have Verizon but was still able to text and email).
In conclusion, I would go back to either one and would recommend either, but anglers should do their research and find what accommodations and package rates better fit their interests. For those interested, there is plenty of information on both their websites. For more on Casa Vieja go to https://www.casaviejalodge.com/, and for Bahia La Tortuga visit https://www.escapeixtapa.com/.